The Queen of Wicked, Shawn, got me thinking about something this morning.
I actually do that once in a while. The smoke billowing out my ears is fearsome indeed and sets off fire alarms.
She recently bemoaned the phrase, “it is what it is” and its tiresome pseudo-philosophical pretentiousness. I flippantly compared it to a Japanese phrase I learned long ago, shoganai.
Shoganai, according to Hanami Web:
Shoganai is a Japanese word that literally means “there is no way of doing, it can’t be helped – nothing can be done”. It is interesting word, because it shows the culture of restraint in Japan – people should not complain. Indeed, complaining in Japan has been always kind of a taboo. Complaining is a sign of weakness. Relative word to shoganai is gaman, which means something like “Be patient”.
Shoganai is something like c’est la vie. However, shoganai demonstrates the inability of the person to change the outside circumstances. Summer is hot and humid. Shoganai. Government workers are not friendly. Shoganai.
Perhaps the concept is too fatalistic and rife with helplessness for the Western mind to digest. I’ve always conjured shoganai as a means of shrugging off the cold hands of fate. Shoganai, rather than used to illustrate helplessness, is better suited at describing from the perspective of that which has happened or is happening. That which cannot be changed. The immutable forces of life. That which we must come to terms with lest we are reduced to a blabbering and incomprehensible idiot seeking to avenge the “wrongs” of the world which are not really wrong, they just are. Shoganai.
Shoganai does not weep. Shoganai does not complain. Shoganai pleads for stoicism.
Shoganai accepts that which is unchangeable, like the seas or the mountains, the skies, Britney Spear’s ceaseless presence in the news. It cannot be helped.
“It is what it is” does not exactly capture the sentiment, I’ll admit.
“It is what it is” seems weakly cold and lazy. Irresponsible even, lacking in depth or sincerity. It sounds like the command a bad parent might bark at their young child.
Shoganai is a surrender of sorts, a surrender to the incomprehensibly unyielding forces shaping our world and the misfortune they are prone to lay at our feet.